Family Travel Guide to Öland, Sweden

Family Travel Guide to Öland, Sweden

Ice cream, go-karts, beaches, and alpacas? Explore this tiny island to find some hidden gems off the east coast of Sweden in this family travel guide.   In European countries, it is common for the entire country to shut down in August as people head off to various resorts and tourist destinations. In Sweden, that "shut down" month is July—typically the warmest weather month of the year with maximum hours of sunlight. With four weeks of vacation, what is a family to do? Fortunately, for Swedes, there are plenty of stugor (rustic cabins) to rent, and plenty of islands to visit. One island, in particular, Öland, is located off the southeast coast of Sweden in the Kalmar region. Öland translates to "island land," which is fairly nonsensical but essentially, it's a long, narrow island.   Getting to Öland There is a bus that runs between Stockholm and Öland if you want to put someone else in charge of the driving. You can enter the island either by...
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Life in the 1800s, I mean, in a Swedish stuga

Life in the 1800s, I mean, in a Swedish stuga

"Where's the chamber pot?" I asked my husband at 2 am. "You're kidding me," he mumbled. Wish I was, my dear, wish that I was. If you ever wanted to know what life was like before modern conveniences, then look no further than your nearest Swedish stuga. Stuga is Swedish for "cabin or cottage, " and they are generally pretty rustic—mostly because they were constructed sometime in the 1800s and electricity and running water were later additions.   Your classic Swedish stuga has low ceilings—people were shorter 100+ years ago—a wood burning stove in one or all of the corners, and if you have a fancy stuga, you'll have more than one room with big heavy wooden doors. For whatever reason, my daughter thinks opening and closing stuga doors is the funnest thing ever and it keeps her busy for at least an hour. Many of our Swedish friends have mentioned spending their Easter holidays and summer vacations "at the stuga," and we always thought...
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Celebrating A Lagom Swedish National Day

Celebrating A Lagom Swedish National Day

Blue skies, swings hanging beneath leafy trees, blooming flowers, and a bright sun with a slight breeze—the setting was perfect for a typical Swedish holiday. The temperature was lagom—not too hot, not too cold—and the sun felt just right against our sunscreened, sunglassed faces. All of the doors to the house were open allowing all seven children and the breeze to freely circulate. Adults chatted in the white sunlit spacious kitchen as they prepared the food. A Swedish pop music Spotify playlist played in the background. Outside, the grill was fired up with cheeseburgers and hot dogs sizzling.     This year, Swedish National Day had extra special meaning for us as newly minted Swedish citizens. In comparison to US citizenship, Swedish citizenship had been very easy to acquire. I'd say, given our limited time (five years isn't that long), we deserve a B-B+ in integration. There's still room for improvement, but we're doing a good job. But we know that some things we can only learn with...
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Here Come the Easter Witches

Here Come the Easter Witches

  When you think about Easter, you immediately think "witch." No? Me neither. Probably the funniest Scandinavian tradition is the Easter witch. In Sweden and Finland—young children hit the streets the Thursday before Easter dressed as peasants (or in their finest witchy costumes) that their parents bought during the post-Halloween sales the year before.   Is this like Halloween in the spring? Yes. Kids make handmade Glad Påsk cards (Happy Easter) and hand them out door to door in exchange for candy. This trick-or-treating type activity was new to me and caught me off guard when we first moved to Sweden. I heard tiny, gentle knocks on my door and not surprisingly, didn't happen to have any loose candy in the house to hand out. Having to improvise, I gave a few kronor as payment to each disappointed child. Don't be like Lisa. Be prepared and always have loose candy around your house at all times.     Last year, I swore I was going to get it right. After years of...
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Nudity in preschool? Why not?

Nudity in preschool? Why not?

The notification from my children's preschool app lit up the front screen of my phone. "You have an important message," the text said in Swedish. I logged in with my email and password and opened up the "important message" that contained photos of my five-year-old son's preschool field trip. From the photos, it looked like the kids were in someone's yard enjoying the beautiful sunny day, eating grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, and running through the sprinkler. Most notable was that the kids were running through the sprinkler completely nude or with only underwear on. I didn't even know he was heading on a field trip that day but none of that shocked me. The fact that I didn't know that my son was going on a field trip that day? Pfft, whatever. The fact that there were nude photos of my child on this preschool app shared with the other parents in his class? Not an issue. The fact that they went to a...
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7 Ways Swedish Women Can Revolutionize Your Life Today

7 Ways Swedish Women Can Revolutionize Your Life Today

  You know what they say, "You can't know where you're going until you know where you've been." In honor of Women's History Month, I am highlighting seven largely unknown Swedish female revolutionaries from history. Okay, one of them is really really well known but the women are probably new names for most of you. Sweden, the first feminist government in the world, has feminist actions and beliefs dating back to the 17th century. It was recently ranked the best country in the world for women and it didn't get there without the help of some famous women throughout history. The Law of Jante, common in Scandinavian cultures, diminishes the importance of individuality and focuses on merging with the herd culture. Every single woman listed below fought against the status quo and subsequently, changed expectations for what women could accomplish. From saints to anarchists, Swedish women have been breaking the mold for hundreds of years. After learning a bit of their history, I challenge each one of you to...
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12 Strange Truths In A Snowy Climate

12 Strange Truths In A Snowy Climate

  Living in a snowy climate can be fun if you like snow, but it can result in some strange lifestyle adaptations. For instance, you discover that gloves don't keep your fingers warm and you double up on mittens, and you end up owning an excessive, yet completely justifiable, number of hats. These truths were inspired by my morning haul of the kids to school in a sled. What can you add?   1. You carry kitty litter or crushed gravel wherever you go   http://gph.is/2hQU9KP   2. Adding skis or sleds to everything becomes a necessary form of transportation http://gph.is/1NlUNON   3. You have a hat for every type of weather http://gph.is/1Zt2TX7 4. Like socks, you have orphaned mittens but you keep these orphans in vain hope that someday it's pair is discovered in another storage bag and they can finally be reunited. However, by then, your child's hands have outgrown the mittens, and they end up in the donate pile. Surprise! http://gph.is/195IEsW 5. Your bed never feels as cozy as it does in the winter http://gph.is/Vx8ZaB 6. You don't want to...
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When The Exciting Life Feels Normal

When The Exciting Life Feels Normal

  When we first moved to Sweden (five years ago, ahh!), the newness of everything was overwhelming. Every day we jumped into the unknown with glee. It was thrilling to have a clean slate. We could be whoever we wanted to be in this new place. I spent the first few weeks converting everything into measurements that I could understand and then again into USD to get a sense of the cost. Everything felt expensive (it was). But it was okay because this was all new and exciting. Snow on April 1? Not depressing. Let's play! Get incredibly lost while trying to find a particular restaurant only to discover that they are closed on Sundays? It's alright. We'll get pizza from around the corner. Spend hours in line to get a national ID card, fill out forms, and hope that you've done everything correctly in a language you don't understand? Kind of scary, yes, but we're hanging in there. Everything we did felt like a strange but wonderful adventure....
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5 Reasons Why Stroller Naps Are The Best Naps

5 Reasons Why Stroller Naps Are The Best Naps

When we moved to Stockholm, Sweden from the US, I noticed that there was a line of strollers parked outside of the cafes during the daytime. I heard the faint sound of a baby making noise tucked under a bundle of blankets. The movement of little feet indicated that the baby was waking up. What was the protocol here? Should I let the mother inside the cafe know? It wasn't long as I stood frozen in moral dilemma than I saw a beautiful Swedish woman zip out of the cafe and head straight to her impeccably chic bassinet stroller—the source of the baby noises. She scooped up her baby and went back inside to sit with the other mothers enjoying their coffees. She had been keeping a watchful eye on her baby through the cafe window and was completely relaxed about the entire situation.   Why are stroller naps the best? Babies sleep outside in all types of weather in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland...
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Guiding the Newbies

Guiding the Newbies

Newbies We've all been newbies at one point or another—whether it was in high school, college, or that first year living abroad. One thing is constant—newbies generally have no idea what they are doing. The days can be long and frustrating when mistakes start to build on one another. All of a sudden, one more thing becomes one too many and that filmmjölk which you thought was creamer but turned out to be sour milk (why would anyone sell me sour milk?!) really ruins your morning coffee and you have a mini-nervous breakdown in your three square meter kitchen. But making all of those mistakes must count for something and now you oldies (experienced expats/foreigners/migrants) can pass on your wisdom to new people moving into your country. The Newbie Guide To Sweden provides that previously word-of-mouth service to newbies via their website with lots of tips and tricks to navigating life in Sweden as a foreigner. Their blog is full of been-there-and-done-that stories to help guide the newbies and I...
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